Monday, March 31, 2014

Archie Shepp Attica Blues Orchestra Live, I Hear the Sound

Archie Shepp in his recordings of the '60s did as much as anybody to advance the "new thing" in jazz, the free avant garde music that flowered in that era and still flourishes today. In later years he toured less, recorded less and survived as a professor of music. But of course he never stopped playing.

A recent release of his Attica Blues Orchestra Live, The Cry of My People (Archie Ball 1301), has been out for a while. It takes music recorded at three festivals in France and gives us a generous 77 minutes of what they did.

The large band has some notable figures in the presence of Amina Claudine Myers on piano and vocals, Famoudou Don Moye on drums, Reggie Washington on bass, along with a host of names you might be less familiar with. There's a four-member string section and a full big band, so it is quite the gathering.

We get a chance to hear Archie hold forth on tenor and he comes through. His sound is slightly darker than it used to be but there is no mistaking who is playing that tenor!

As far as the program, other than Ms. Myers's "Arms", there is a grouping of works by Cal Massey and Maestro Shepp that will be familiar to anybody who has dug the man and his music over the considerable number of years. "Attica Blues", "The Cry of My People", "Steam" and "Mama Too Tight" will be especially familiar.

If this is less a free sort of encounter and more an earthy funk or rootsy gig, there's still plenty of heat in the ensemble. There's no letting up on the power of his music.

No, I have nothing bad to say about this record. It does not replace his classic sides, but it offers us an entirely credible large band smoking the more accessible side of Shepp, the outreach to the community side. And that's certainly cool--especially since we get his large ensemble vision here. If you need a reminder that Shepp has always had great respect for the jazz legacy that came before him, listen to him do Ellington's "Come Sunday".

Enough said. Check it out.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Dan Willis and Velvet Gentlemen, The Satie Project II

I am almost surprised to say this, but the stature of French renegade composer Erik Satie has grown. It was in part helped along by John Cage's set of piano pieces that paid homage to Satie, "Cheap Imitation". And these days there are composers who have learned something from the diatonic eccentricities and chromatic unpredictabilities that Satie was known for and made something new in their own way out of it all.

And now we have a very adventuresome Satie "cover band" so to speak. Dan Willis and the Velvet Gentlemen take Satie's music as a launching point and make some pretty outside rock-ish jazz from it. This on the disk at hand, The Satie Project II (Daywood Drive 1014), which reconfigures some of Satie's more interesting works for a ten-piece band.

Dan Willis heads the outfit, plays reeds in interesting and sometimes improvised ways, and arranges the music with a good deal of imagination.

There are moments that actually startle with reharmonizations or bold general treatment, here as an out-rock piece, there as a jazz-inflected segment, still further as an electric-acoustic contemporary through-recomposed song.

It takes a little getting used to, because nothing is exactly what you might envision. After two hearings I was surprised to find it quite enthralling. I expected Deodato's "Zarathustra" but it wasn't so facile, not a bit. It's way more interesting and involved.

Well, so I do recommend this!! It will surprise you.

Pete Mills, Sweet Shadow

When you sample many jazz disks like I do every week in my role as reviewer here and elsewhere, some releases let you know within a minute that they are very much happening. Others take a while and in any event I generally stay with the first hearing all the way through. The latest album by tenor saxophonist Pete Mills, Sweet Shadow (Cellar Live 070813) had that one-minute recognition feel to it.

After only the first minute I knew that a) The rhythm section was totally primed and swung incredibly well, and that b) Pete Mills was playing real-deal jazz on his tenor. The rest of the album told more of the story, of course, but I knew immediately what the entire album confirmed, that this was a hard-charging, very swinging set of modern contemporary jazz.

Pete Mills plays a present-day sort of tenor that reflects a post-bop stance without sounding derivative in any obvious way. I wont say he sounds like Joe Henderson because he doesn't. But he parallels Henderson in a way with strength and drive. He is in a league with Lovano-Brecker-Bregonzi-Garzone sorts of modern tenorism, but again it's only by analogy. He doesn't sound particularly like any of them in any direct sense. Pete also crafts some excellent and hip blowing tunes, 12 of them. Along with an Ellington-Strayhorn and a Roland Kirk classic they set things up well for the band.

And the band is something very good. Matt Wilson at the drums makes things swingingly combust, in excellent tandem with Martin Wind on bass. Pete McCann on guitar and Erik Augis on piano fill things out with nice comping and something to say in the solo department.

All I can say is. . . put this one on for a minute and you'll get it. Excellent!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Sachal Studios Orchestra, Sachal Studios Presents Jazz and All That, In Memory of Dave Brubeck

In reality fusion has roots that go back some ways. Of course the Beatles set the stage for Indian-oriented rock combinations. Some of the music of Ravi Shankar, in his movie scores and on the US album Pather Panchali, precursed those developments. And the Bollywood soundtracks at their best combine Western and South Asian instruments and approaches and have been doing so for a very long time.

Out of all that comes a style of large group (studio orchestra) music where the phrasing manner of South Asian classical and some folk music--with melismas and microtonal bends--is taken on at times by the string group and the orchestra as a whole, but the Western component is also present.

We hear a very interesting and well-conceived program of Western songs, some jazz, rock and pop classics, arranged for a South Asian orchestra on Sachal Studios Presents Jazz and All That, in Memory of Dave Brubeck (Sachal Music 026). Why Brubeck? The group does an interesting arrangement of his "Blue Rondo a la Turk" for one thing. And Dave Brubeck at the height of his popularity did a number of tours with his band that stretched across the world. He and the band were fascinated with the musical traditions they found during their tours and did try to incorporate something of what they heard into their music while acting as champions of such sounds in the States. So it isn't really a stretch.

This album is mostly about the sort of large orchestra fusion of East and West that I refer to above. There is a full contingent of strings doing some of those really interesting melodic figures, there is an apt representation of Western instruments, plus South Asian classical instruments playing a prominent role--sitar, tabla, sarangi, bamboo flute, etc.

Producer Izzat Majeed has, I gather, much to do with the outcome we hear on this program. The orchestra operates out of Lahore from what I understand and they are a well-equipped and proficient set of musicians. The repertoire includes a number of what appear to be South Asian popular songs and they sound especially well. Then there is everything from "The Pink Panther Theme" to Stevie Wonder's "You've Got it Bad Girl", the wonderful Brazilian classic "Ponteio", the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" and even R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts".

The arrangements work well once you get used to what is happening. Though there are easy listening touches contained at times within the music you get a shock as the Indo-Pak component comes forward and reminds you that no, this is not grandpa's Mantovani record.

I find the music fascinating. The string arrangements alone are something to focus on. In the end of course it has a total matrix going on and either you'll find it interesting or you won't. If you like Indo-Pak sounds to begin with you are halfway to where they are. Yes, I suppose this a commercial proposition over there, and for that I wish them all success. For us over here, if you really listen to this one, it has much more than song familiarity to offer. It is a special world of fusion, one not always experienced or appreciated in the West. Very well done!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Curators, Thank You

Last October 11th I posted here on The Curators' online album Heavy Metal Spartacus. Today a look at their first album for Engine Records, Thank You (Engine 054). The trio comes across in the studio as less the in-your-face chaos-ticians that the online live album portrayed, and more as free players with a very together group chemistry and a wide spectrum of moods and attitudes.

Mikko Innanen sounds especially powerful on the baritone sax--one of the better new names out there on that instrument, in fact, but he also switches off to other members of the sax family with no less facility. He creates many bright moments throughout. James Ilgenfritz can bow very nicely and has pizz-power in the hands and fingers when he needs it. Joe Hertenstein has very good inventive freedom in the wide array of kitchen-sink percussive sounds he produces and a very effective asymmetric a-rhythmia that brings out a jagged-edged sort of feel that lays well with the free ventures of the two melodists in the band.

It's an open and well felt-thought session broken into ten interrelated sections. All of it has free avant ease of expression to it but plenty of traction when needed.

What's especially good about it all is that they never flag in invention. They are players inspired to come up with THE NEW spontaneously and they a do a great job of it.

The Curators are a free trio to be reckoned with. Thank You brings them into clear focus with some exciting and thoughtful sounds. Get it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Greg Sinibaldi, Jesse Canterbury, Ascendant

Next up in Prefecture Records' provocative series of natural ambient music is the duo of reedists Greg Sinibaldi and Jesse Canterbury and their vinyl LP Ascendant (Prefecture 010). It was recorded live in a giant cistern which had an incredibly long-enveloped echo resonance. Such an acoustic environment does not lend itself that well to any series of rapid note articulations of a chromatic sort because the sustain turns it into mud, so the two wisely avoid that kind of playing.

Other than Monk's "Ugly Beauty" Greg and Jesse alternate compositions that have especially open and sometimes sparse soundings that allow the cistern to work its magic.

The result bears contemplation and active listening. The player-composers sound many different reed instruments alternately throughout the set, providing a wide spectrum of ambient sounds, suspended chords, unisons and a kind of organum of drone and tone, space and sound that is positively enchanting to hear.

Highly recommended!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Abdelhai Bennani, Duo #9, No Goal, with Alan Silva

Is there such a thing as an artist getting too much exposure, too many recordings? Not when there is a notable progression and/or a series of changing contexts for the music. In the case of free tenor player Abdelhai Bennani both progression and change are noticeable.

You can hear that on a fairly recent recording, Duo #9, No Goal (JaZt Tapes CD 043), a part of the JT series of artist demo releases available as quality CD-ROMs. Perhaps what most distinguishes this one is the presence of the great Alan Silva, who excels in his role here as free player of his "orchestral synthesizer" setup.

The recording was made a year ago January, live in Paris.

There is a cohesive spontaneity to be heard in the four improvised segments. Alan lays down some intriguing orchestral blankets of sound and Abdelhai comes through with his patented swallowed-note phrasing, sounding especially loose and limber.

They cover a good deal of territory with explorations of space music and some energizingly brittle, give-and-take pointillisms. The more you hear it, the better it gets. Thank you Abdelhai and Alan for the sounds!

For more information about this and other JaZt TAPES and to order the CD go to (copy and paste the URL into your browser address window).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Urs Leimgruber / Roger Turner Duo, The Pancake Tour

Relative Pitch records has been releasing consistently interesting avant free jazz music for a number of years now. I return to one I didn't cover that is several years out, a focused duo between Urs Leimgruber on soprano and tenor and Roger Turner on drums. The Pancake Tour (Relative Pitch 1007) gives us seven improvisations recorded in Cologne in 2011.

The sound of this music is heightened by the deliberate limiting of the drums to just a snare, tom tom, hi-hat, cymbals, an "f-blade", a chain, and "the comb". What this does is to force Roger Turner to work deliberately albeit spontaneously on the timbres he can extract from what is available to him. He does this quite well. In the end he doesn't sound typically drummer-like in what he does much of the time, more new-music orchestral.

In that way he sets things up for Urs Leimgruber to respond with vertical timbres and textures on his saxes more than horizontal jazz-ish lines.

The hour of music on this recording continues working within those constraints with moments that are somewhat sparse, some in the middle zone of activity and volume, and a few minutes here and there of more intensive scorching.

I can't say I didn't appreciate this exploration in sound. I did. The more "traditional" side of my ear-digester wanted to hear more bottom--a bass drum and a contrabass. But the objective presumably was to make creative sound essays within these limitations and for that they succeeded perfectly well.

If you like the idea of free music that is almost brutally paired down, here is a case where it works, no question about it. As always when I hear something that doesn't complete a picture as much as sketch out a presence in part through erasure, I remember that there are plenty of recordings to hear afterwards that do something else. One does not need to assume that any one recording represents THE music of the future so much as A music of today that we can appreciate. If this isn't one of my "desert-island" disks, it doesn't matter. I am not packing for an extended desert-island stay, thankfully for that. So this is quite cool with me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2° étage - Grey Matter

Just because we think we know everything doesn't mean we do. And even if we do there's going to be something new that we don't know and so we don't. As a graduate student at the University of Chicago I'd sometimes go through a spell where there were no classes for a day or two and I'd start thinking I was smart, I was something else, that the world was round and I knew where everything was located. Then the Monday afternoon seminar would come along. Some poor invited guy would come and give a presentation on what he was doing. Following that the faculty would proceed to make mincemeat out of him in a question and answer segment. Then I knew! I knew that I didn't. Eventually I started understanding why they were about to make hamburgers out of somebody, what theoretical heresy or logical gaff he was unravelling up at the podium. So I learned. But then my life changed and new things came that I needed to know. When you are by yourself you can start thinking all kinds of things, but in the face of life in the social setting, you'd better adjust to what IS! And cut the crap.

I am thinking such thoughts as I sit down to review the album by 2° étage, Grey Matter (No Business NBCD 63). Sure this is free, avant jazz. But that doesn't mean that somehow automatically you are gonna know what it's like. The group is a trio of Christine Wodrascka on piano, Jean Luc Cappozzo on trumpet and bugle, and Gerry Hemingway on drums/percussion. This is a live gig recorded in France in 2012.

I came to this recording only familiar with Gerry Hemingway. And he comes through with a sensitive creativity that he is known for in the free zone. Jean Luc Cappozzo gets a rather formidable spectrum of sound colors from his horns and can blast off some really interesting phrases, too. Christine Wodrascka plays some smart things inside the piano. On the keys she is out and unpredictable in what she is going to do. And that surprise and spontaneity is good in itself--but her timing is almost speech-like, which makes her even more fascinating to hear.

This is new music freedom closer to MEV or AMM than Cecil Taylor, mostly. But it is in its own zone, too.

So in the end I couldn't say I knew everything that's been done before I heard this one--because this wasn't included and it isn't quite like anything else. So once again I know that you can't know what's next; once again I learn not to be cocky. This is a good one if you want something out-there that follows its own sense. And maybe shakes your sense of surety up just a little! That's good.

Lauren Kinhan, Circle in a Square

New York Voices' singer Lauren Kinhan has a new album of her own out, Circle in a Square (Dotted i 1001). It gives us the exposed version of her consummate artistry, so to speak, and shows her as a songwriter of genuine talent.

She does this all with an excellent backing band that includes keyboardist Andy Ezrin, Will Lee on bass, plus special guests Randy Brecker, Donny McCaslin and Gary Versace, among others.

The title tune is a real winner but the others are too. It's modern contemporary jazz song smithing of the highest order. And her singing has the marvelous nuance that makes her formidable.

In this particular case that truly does cover what you get. You should hear this one. It's more than a keeper; it's a killer in what it does to/for you!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stranahan, Zaleski, Rosato, Limitless

The advent of the contemporary modern jazz piano trio takes many forms these days. I use the term "contemporary modern" to distinguish the style from neo-trad and/or hard-bop inspired outfits, groups that also don't quite fit into the free-avant camps. Admittedly there are lots of fine lines in groups where things mix together, but not always, and not today. What's happening with one such contemporary modern group to come along, Stranahan-Zaleski-Rosato? Their second album has perked up my ears and so today I talk about it a bit. It's called Limitless (Capri 74130-2). I reviewed their first a while ago. Type in "Anticipation" in the search window above for that.

The trio to be more precise consists of Colin Stranahan on drums, Glenn Zaleski on piano and Rick Rosato on bass. They are rather new to the scene but nonetheless have forged a sound that bears hearing--different in interesting ways. Other than a version of Monk's "Work" they feature original compositions by Zaleski and Rosato, plus one by Stranahan. The approaches in the compositions and the follow-through in improvisations that come after are key. Compositions have a capital /C/ with these guys and do distinguish them from some others.

"Work" has a touch of the classic Bill Evan's trio. The rest branch out with that idea as a touchstone but then take it beyond. All three are first-rate players. The drumming of Stranahan has dynamics and strength. Zaleski has a well developed modern harmonic pallet and invention as a constant. Rosato has the fundamentals strongly down pat. He gets a beautiful tone. He can solo in ways that are worth hearing and his ensemble work is impeccable.

You could say the above about many players. What strikes me listening is that as a trio they thrive on some hip ideas that are rooted but stand on their own with a refreshing newness. They are the sum of the parts as much as they are more than that--meaning that each player is doing something good and the trio-as-trio hangs together as an entity well ahead of the norm.

I don't know these days what "making it" means, how as a part of many new folks on the scene people will be able to keep it together as a working group, and whether that will be a living for them. These three deserve a chance to continue because they really have something of their own and the hearing of it makes you think that such groups can have a future. I of course have heard others, but this is one for sure. An excellent one. Patronize the new names and the old. They need your support.

Definitely recommended. Good luck to them!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Puppeteers, O'Farrill, Ware, Blake, Affoumado

When a group has much in the way of cooking heat it almost doesn't fit to call them a "straight-ahead" outfit. Art Blakey's Messengers were too blistering to be mainstream. Not exactly. And much of what is now "straight-ahead" was at one time "avant garde". Bird.

So when I am contemplating the new jazz outfit known as the Puppeteers, as I audition their first album (puppet's records), I think these thoughts. Because this band is hard swinging all the way. With Arturo O'Farrill manning the piano chair, there is a Latin tinge going for it, too.

The band is a quartet. Arturo plays a very hard-charging piano, no surprise there, with bop through Tyner and Latin being channelled inimitably with his excellent presence on the album. In Jaime Affoumado on drums they have a secret weapon for the drive they achieve. He has the push, the feel, the chops to liven up anyone, and these players take advantage with great spirit in response. Bill Ware, an excellent vibist, brings mallet color and definite accomplishment to the stage, infusing Bags, Burtonian and Hutchersonian roots with his own sense.

Then we have electric and acoustic bassist Alex Blake--who solos with the best of them, sometimes singing along with the bass notes in the manner but not the Popeye voice-quality of Slam Stewart. In the ensemble he is the right driving force to team with Jaime.

So the band is excellent and hip at that. But they would not be as interesting or vital had they not the tune-smithing chops of all four. Eight of the nine numbers are penned by band members and they are very good at getting things burning in the manner of their distinctive selves. . . the Puppeteers.

I would imagine that this is a band to hear live. If you happen to be around Manhattan this March 20th, they are celebrating the release at Birdland starting at 6 p.m. The album speaks for itself in any event, and what it says is "join us and get the spirit!" If you want the immediacy and satisfaction of cooking with a real potful. . . here it is.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mikolaj Trzaska, Devin Hoff, Michael Zerang, Sleepless in Chicago

On the jazz front with these blogs I get exposed and in turn expose you to a fair number of names you may not know well. In the free-avant realm that has something to do with the underground nature of much of the music. I am glad to hear the music a great deal of the time--and pass along the news when something seems worthwhile to me.

In the instance of Sleepless in Chicago (No Business NBLP 70) we have another in the admirable series of small-quantity release LPs No Business devotes to artists of merit who for whatever reason are not expected to win a gold record in the near future.

In this case we have the trio of Mikolaj Trzaska on alto sax, Devin Hoff on double bass, and Michael Zerang on drums blowing free and fruitfully on two long cuts recorded in 2011 and 2012 live in Chicago.

Trzaska is a dynamic firestorm with no shortage of inspiration here. His is a wind that blows without end, in the best sense. I won't say he sounds like x, y or z because he does not. He's got the wail, the jazz delivery and the endless stream of ideas--all that is a gas to hear.

His compadres in avant outness are where they need to be to make this work. Devin Hoff gives Trzaska a notefull backdrop that's harmonically open and dynamic. Michael Zerang has everything from a maelstrom to a light spring breeze to contribute--depending upon the moment.

Open form free jazz, to say the very least, has often a total dependence upon the moment and what gets constructed in it to succeed. Sure, there are players who can and do get by in moments where the spirit may flag by relying on various devices--and the more original and interesting the devices the less the flagging moment actually flags. Sleepless in Chicago never seems to enter those pockets where one goes to the pre-disposed. And that's because Trzaska never runs short of expression and his bandmates seem continually to inspire and cajole him to keep going with his explorations into space.

And that's probably one of the highest complements one can pay a free improviser--that his cup virtually never stops runnething over. Not here. Especially not in the first half. There are only 300 copies of this album pressed. I won't say "run to your nearest record store" because...there may not be one around you anymore. (Though Record Store Day is coming up and you should patronize!) Still, this is one to have. Seriously. If you are into the muse, the improvised news, that has no words, that warbles like the birds! Spring ahead for this one!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Richard Bennett, New York City Swara

Who knows what's next? In life it's impossible to know for sure. In music you don't know exactly either. So Richard Bennett and his digital-only release New York City Swara (Times Music) when I received it was just another release in the "great (or not-so-great) unknown". That is, until I heard it.

It's Indian fusion, featuring his piano and melodica teamed with a talented group of New York jazz and classical Indian instrumentalists.

Bennett plays raga-like improvisations on his instruments that also have harmonic & contemporary jazz and even modern minimal components. He's good and unexpectedly so in the way he genuinely combines it all. The instrumentalists have nicely composed elements to work off of and/or spots for improvisations. The music hangs together with a kind of brilliance.

Surely this is one of the most successful endeavors in this realm I have heard in a long time. It has a real South Asian feel to it but then is very New York, too.

If you like these sorts of intersections this one will get you! And even when you know what's coming in a general way, it surprises. Put your ears on and dive in.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Dana Lyn, Aqualude

Dana Lyn, Dana Lyn. A name that sounded vaguely familiar to me when I received her latest, but no clear recognition came to me. She's living in Brooklyn, which right away said something to me. Seems like everybody is living in Brooklyn now, almost. Well not everybody. I am over on the Jersey side. Some still can manage Manhattan somehow, but it's usually because they have been in their space a long time and etc.

So Dana Lyn. Violinist. Composer. She plays Irish folk sometimes. Not here. Her background is quite variegated. Is that the right word? No. Google says "exhibiting various colors". Well that works actually, if you think of colors in the musical sense. There are classical influences, rock and jazz, a folkishness and an undefinable something, which is originality.

Her first album (she's already working on a second) is Aqualude (Ropeadope), music that has something to do with the sea, among other things. It's one of those musical offerings virtually "beyond category". Dana is on violin, Clara Kennedy on cello, Mike McGinnis on clarinet, Jonathan Goldberger on guitar, and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. On three cuts an unusual instrument called the "angel door" is utilized. It looks something like a Kalimba attached to a door-like frame. Is it bowed? I think so.

Beyond that is what especially counts. The album is a real gem. The music has classical-meets Brooklyn avant-meets new fusion-meets modern postbop. Very post- postbop.

Uncanny? Well there is such originality here that uncanny works for me. It's essential if you want something so unusual that it will take a while for people to catch up. But the music is not "difficult", as can be the case for ahead-music. Sometimes the lineage of Zappa, when he was writing music beyond what anybody expected, comes to mind. Though it's not that she sounds like him, though. It's beautiful. It's not brimming over with solos, though it has them (and they are cool), because this is more compositional.

A glorious surprise! Get it!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ken Vandermark, Made to Break, Provoke

Made to Break moves mountains. Virtual mountains. With sound. Music. It's Ken Vandermark's new group, who improvise around structures in ways Ken has devised but there is no need to go into exactly how in this space. The liner notes to today's release explain. Ken's lately been influenced by punk rock and Ethiopian music and in some ways that gets in here.

There is a combination of electro-acoustic sounds (Cristof Kurzmann) and instrumentalists (Tim Daisy, drums, Ken on reeds and Devin Hoff, electric bass).

Provoke (Clean Feed 273) is a nice set with three long numbers recorded live in Lisbon. The band gets a full chance to find their maximum level of expression and they surely do.

This is avant improv that swells, rocks, grooves and explodes in very nice ways. Hoff plays electric bass in a foundational but innovative way. He's excellent, with a big sound. Tim Daisy is a drummer who can go anywhere and do it with his own kind of authority. He does. Ken you I am sure know and he is strong and unpredictable as always. Christof's electro-acoustics add plenty of color and a thickening texture, at times sounding like more than one voice, which of course is what you can do with such possibilities, and he does it all well.

This set is an adventure and a challenge--to be free, to be more than acoustic, to be big in sound and to be small too in contrast. It's a hip outing. Out with hippening happening.

Add this to your Maestro Vandermark corpus and you will be glad you did. I am!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Baird Hersey & Prana, Sadhana

I have been taken with the remarkable vocal group Prana as headed by Baird Hersey since I heard their first album. They combine elements of traditional Buddhist chant with overtone throat singing and otherwise innovative compositional elements to create a vibrantly moving spiritual-aural music that increasingly evolves with singularity.

Their new album Sadhana (self-released) is realized as a twelve-movement practice (the word is what Sadhana denotes in Sanskrit) following Ashtanga Yoga wisdom. Each movement denotes an aspect of self-knowledge and spiritual attainment. The music can be closely attended to along these lines or simply allowed to enrapture you in its wondrous sonic qualities.

What interests me (one thing anyway) is how Baird and the ensemble introduce harmonic progressions, drums and percussion here and there, and at times a closer relationship to chant-in-song-form. By so doing the music will doubtless be more accessible to the typical "Western" ear. And what is so satisfying about it is that by so doing the music is no less enthralling and sonically enlightening.

Included on the album is the single "My Foolish Heart" released earlier. It is an enchanting song-chant by Krishna Das (with whom they have collaborated in the past) who sings the haunting refrain along with Prana. It's pure magic. But then so is the entire album.

By all means drop everything (well, not everything) and get this one. Seriously, it is vocal music like no other--American World Music if you like. And it is really amazing to hear.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don Cherry, Live in Stockholm, 1968, 1971

Don Cherry spent fruitful time in Stockholm in the later-sixties-early seventies. Caprice Records released a double album of cuts Don and company made in the earlier seventies but there were also some live recordings from 1968 that Don decided not to release because they were by then several years old. Then another live session from 1971 also never saw the light of day. Luckily Caprice kept the tapes on ice and we now have them to revel in on the new CD Live in Stockholm (Caprice 21832).

There's well over an hour of live music with a good sextet and quintet, including Bernt Rosengren and Okay Temiz. This was a fertile period for Don, where his own version of new thing began cross-fertilizing with his ethnic-world stance. You can think of this music as the larger band equivalent of Mu, the remarkable duet double album Don did with Eddie Blackwell in 1969. It is what can be done with a larger ensemble. It hearkens back to his Blue Note and Copenhagen sounds while entering the whole-grain music world Cherry kept working at and developing until the end.

This middle period I find very satisfying, not so much here for the individual soloing (which has definite moments) as for the group sound, the collective solo-ensemble concept.

If you love Don you will love this. And even if you don't. It's a wonderful revelation, a missing piece of the Cherry puzzle!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gary Hassay with William Parker and Daniel Carter, Emanate

Saxophonist and free jazz luminary Gary Hassay kindly sent me a burn of a set he did last summer with iconic bassist William Parker and multi-instrumental notable Daniel Carter. It was a live gig in Eaton, Pennsylvania. Though Gary is in the process of landing a label deal and so this is not yet available I was motivated to write about it early because of the satisfaction I've gotten listening to it. This is not standard practice with me of course but I make an exception because I hope you all will be motivated to anticipate its release.

The title of the disk is Emanate.

William Parker sounds beautiful throughout. It is hard to imagine a better catalyst in an intimate setting of this kind, opening up the harmonic spectrum with well chosen, woody, forceful yet rich bass sound.

Daniel Carter speaks in salient musical phrases in the three-way dialog; he plays flute, trumpet and saxes.

And Gary is utterly primed. The breathy outness of his alto here is far from canny (uncanny, then) and extraordinarily lucid. And he heats on up to a firey climax as he and his co-creators get the spirit. There is also a brief spot for his overtone singing which must be heard to be appreciated.

Well that's all I'll say for now. It is one of Gary's very best for his well-expressed alto passion--and in no small way via the inspiration the trio generates internally and outwardly as a whole.

I hope someone puts this one out quickly so you all can hear it. It is a winner!

Rob Mosher's Polebridge

The colder it gets in my office the slower my computer responds. Currently it's 52 degrees and things are going so slow that screaming is an option I'd almost consider. But then I remember the music, the musicians and my responsibility to do them justice, not to short-sheet them because I want the comforts of grandma and home. Enough!

What we have on tap is most unusual. It's Rob Mosher's music--that somehow conjoins sounds of the old Wild West, or at least suggestions of it, with a chamber jazz suite that captures Mosher's humor and dash. He calls it "Chamber Jazz for the Wild West, inspired by Polebridge, MT, population 88. Schumann and Prokofiev drunk at a saloon piano." In short, Polebridge (self-released).

This is zany and off-kilter at heart. The ensemble has Rob on soprano, clarinet and English horn. Then there are six other instrumentalists, mostly strings and winds.

It came out last June but that should not stop you. Carla Bley comes to mind but only as a precursor--and in her whimsical-sarcastic mode. If you like something well-written with jazz underpinnings yet somehow sounds like it's coming out of a Wild West saloon, this is for you! Seriously.

Kheshwa and Her Martians, Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz

Keshwa (Nonhlanhla Kheswa) is a South African singer in the SA jazz tradition and she is good. Her band is called the Martians and they have that gently rocking, swinging kind of groove within which soprano and tenor sax, piano and trumpet soloists come across as hip.

They do a full set on their album Kheshwa & Her Martians Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz (Xippi). It is filled with some traditional songs from earlier times (I recognize one or two), and what sounds like some originals.

Keshwa sounds slightly like Miriam Makeba but only as a reference. The band rips it up--and here you have CONTEMPORARY South African jazz! And it's good. So get onto it if that gives you anticipation, because it delivers.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tyrone Birkett/Emancipation, Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land

Officially this CD will be out on the 25th of this month. I happen to be listening early and so strike the keyboard now to convey my pleasure. We are talking about alto (mostly) saxophonist Tyrone Birkett and his group Emancipation. They have put together a really nice set they entitle Postmodern Spirituals: The Promised Land (Araminta 111562-02).

This is music in a mode you could call Post-Trane. It is music of a spirituality and consciousness raising Trane was all about, surely. And Tyrone both embodies elements of Trane and goes beyond it in his playing. In similar ways Gregory Royals (on piano and organ) (also Pablo Vergara on a few cuts) channels Tyner and Alice in his harmonic thrust and then adds his own ears and ideas. Paula Ralph Birkett distinguishes the music with a very powerful, soulful set of vocals (and reminds me just a little of Jean Carn). The original songs are nicely done and keep sounding better as you hear them repeatedly.

The rest of the players are strong, straddling jazz and funk with a strong push and good sense.

This is an album in the tradition of some of the progressive outings with a strong vocalist--that you heard from Norman Connors, Azar Lawrence, etc., back in the day. It's progressed, though, with the times.

Well all that said I do think this one is very hip, very good. Nice going!